By Debbie Adams
According to “A History of Roanoke County” by Deedie Kagey, the current Vinton Municipal Building at 311 South Pollard Street was built in the early 1980’s. The old Municipal Building at the corner of Pollard Street and Jackson Avenue had been demolished in 1985 when it was decided that it was cost prohibitive to renovate the structure. The Roanoke County/Vinton Health Department opened in a new building at that location (227 Pollard Street) in 1986.
In 2015, The Advancement Foundation (TAF) Business Incubation Center, The HIVE, leased and moved into the upper level of the Health Department building.
The top floor had been mostly vacant for several years and had deteriorated—in fact, it was described as “dismal in appearance.” Rowe Furniture used the space for a training center for a time in collaboration with TAF, and then a local film company used it as their base while filming a movie in Vinton.
The building is owned and maintained by the Town of Vinton. Over time a new roof was added; air conditioning was upgraded when the film company leased the space.
When the HIVE (Home of Innovative and Visionary Entrepreneurs) took up residence, TAF founder and CEO Annette Patterson made some dramatic changes to the second floor of the building, turning it into a space with six private offices, a computer lab, a conference room, restrooms with showers, a kitchen, a reception area, and an open co-worker space. She enlisted many individuals and groups to make the modifications, install flooring, equip the lab, and donate or offer discount furniture for the offices.
TAF and various Gauntlet Business Program entrepreneurs occupied the space until December 2022 when TAF—having gone mostly virtual in its services–decided not to renew their lease.
At the time, Town Manager Pete Peters issued a press release stating that the second floor of the Health Department building would “undergo a cosmetic update and be utilized to relocate several existing town staff from the main Municipal Building. Work to update the offices is expected to begin in the next few months and Town staff are expected to move into the building by this summer.”
The renovations are now complete. The employees who have moved into the Annex include Capital Projects Director Jamie Hurt, Human Resources and Risk Management Director Donna Collins, Community Programs Director Chasity Barbour, Economic Specialist Marshall Stanley, and Vinton Police Community Resource Officer William Holland. There is space for another office or two.
“The Town of Vinton has been blessed with tremendous growth and expansion over the past few years,” said Vinton Mayor Brad Grose. “In many respects, the Town has evolved into a modern, progressive community. Along with that growth has come an increased demand for more efficient government operations. The Annex Building will help our professional staff increase productivity and reduce costs. The actual size of the Town’s workforce has been greatly reduced due to changes in the delivery of certain services and increased efficiency. However, many positions now require individual office space to perform the advanced skill sets of the new staff.”
“The Annex will reduce expenses by allowing several departments to share modern technology and eliminate travel time between office locations. Of course, the Annex will alleviate some of the overcrowding in the existing Vinton Municipal Building. Relocating some of the offices into a building that is already owned by the Town of Vinton eliminated the cost of constructing a new facility. In addition, much of the interior remodeling was performed by the Town staff which greatly reduced the cost of converting the building into a modern office space with an up-to-date Conference and Training Room. The Annex Building will efficiently serve Vinton for many years as the Town continues to grow and progress.”
Jamie Hurt spearheaded the Annex renovation project. He describes the employees now housed at the Annex as “inward-facing employees whose appointments with the public are scheduled” ahead of time, not “walk-in.”
Hurt says that the upper level of the building has been basically completed gutted and replaced with new flooring, ceilings, lighting, and doors. New paint has made the space bright and inviting. There is new furniture in the reception area which makes waiting for an appointment or meeting more comfortable and functional.
What’s more important is the new state-of-the-art technology available in the Annex. The conference and training room has been expanded and updated (it will seat 16) and is already making a “giant impact” on town operations. The town has been able to move employee training sessions, committee meetings, and economic development meetings to the space. Hurt says the space gives a “good impression” in meetings with guests new to the town.
The space is also adaptable. Tables can be rearranged and grouped. It can become modular as the need arises. There is also a smaller conference area at one end of the room. One of the meeting room’s most striking features is the enormous touch screen monitor system which takes up most of one wall.
Before the Annex, meetings had to be held in small, cramped office spaces or Council Chambers, requiring set-up for each separate meeting.
Hurt says that the upper floor has basically the same layout as before the renovations. The kitchen area has been expanded, remodeled, and updated, with new cabinetry and backsplash (installed by Hurt and Vinton’s Inventory and Facilities Manager Tobbie Russeau). In fact, much of the labor on the project has been completed in-house by Town of Vinton employees, with the rest subcontracted out.
There is a new workroom space with a copier and an enormous, large format printer/scanner, which can print blueprints, promotional banners, plat maps, and much more. It also allows employees to scan documents and improve their visual quality.
Hurt says the new equipment is allowing the town to digitize many print copies taking up space in the Municipal Building offices, particularly in Planning and Zoning.
Overall, Hurt says, the new technology in the Annex has allowed the town to become more efficient. He is able to sit in his Annex office and adjust the climate in the Vinton War Memorial, room by room, space by space, several blocks away.
Hurt is excited about the newly renovated space and the state-of-the-art technology.
“Everything I have needed, the town has provided,” Hurt said. He credits town employees for their efforts in the renovation project, in particular Donna Collins, who has been invaluable in selecting the décor, the furniture, and more.
The Annex renovations have also provided more storage, allowing the town to transfer items from the Municipal Building offices. The Planning and Zoning Department, with four employees in a very tight space, has been able to spread out in the older building.
Hurt says the project is not completely finished. They hope to add a patio out front, some brick pavers that will tie in with other pavers being installed throughout the downtown area, some raised plant beds, benches, and new signage. There is talk of an outdoor wall mural.
“While the Town of Vinton actually employs almost two dozen fewer staff than it did just a few short years ago, our staff needs have evolved as the Town’s services and focus have changed to keep up with the community’s current needs and Town Council’s initiatives,” said Town Manager Peters. “Similarly, our office spaces also needed to change to reflect that and the renovation of the Annex has provided available space and flexible training and meeting rooms with up-to-date technology to provide help our staff operate more efficiently.”
“The pandemic changed the way the world works, and we quickly learned that we weren’t as capable as many of our counterparts to host or attend virtual forums, such as a Zoom meeting, or to work on collaborative platforms such as Teams. The pandemic also highlighted how cramped our existing staff were in the municipal building, where staff were sometimes working in hallways or sharing cubicles.”
“The additional office space at the Annex has provided staff with more personal space to work or meet with customers. We were very intentional with who we relocated to the Annex and chose to keep the outward facing departments of Town Administration, Finance, Planning & Zoning and Police in the Municipal building. While the Annex now hosts our more inward facing or internal divisions. For the benefit of the average citizen or business owner, this should keep the change seamless for the daily person needing to conduct business with the Town.”